19 December 2005

Joseph

Joseph Robinson

Photo taken at send-off party for Larry, September 2000

18 December 2005

Involvement

Apropos the involvement that Philip spoke to, beyond carrying the "psychic burden," the positive obverse is the duty to contribute to nation-building. I was reminded of this reading an article in today's Gleaner about a remarkable young woman named Indianna Minto who is involved in a research project on the economy.

Turning apparent weaknesses into strengths has been one of the operational principles of the Jamaican Economy Project. Rather than relying solely on talent close to home, the project has taken advantage of Jamaica's intellectual diaspora. In the process, it has activated a virtual university of sorts. Exploiting modern communications technologies, from the Internet to teleconferencing, the project has succeeded in uniting Jamaican scholars around the world with those at home, around a shared commitment to bring their knowledge to bear on the country's future.

UNIQUE PERSPECTIVE

Moreover, continues Miss Minto, the experiences of other researchers like her, ­ young, still a bit idealistic, and solidly rooted in Jamaica though they work and live abroad ­offers a unique perspective on old problems. "Our eyes," she points out, "have not been clouded by the entrapments of politics and political affiliation. As such, our present location in foreign lands has allowed us to fly free of the nets of politics, to speak as independent and empowered individuals who are able to view our nation more objectively.

Indianna Minto's future looks bright. In the final stages of her doctoral dissertation, she has already landed herself work at Oxford University's Said Business School. Yet she hopes that she can bring some of that same optimism to bear on her country. She reflects, "No Jamaican, by virtue of youth or country of residence, should absolve himself of the responsibility to help in his country's advancement. By participating in this project I am acknowledging this fact and in so doing, making a small but what I hope will be a significant contribution to Jamaica.

There are many lessons we can draw from this as we engage the process of bringing Jamaica's human rights record with respect to sexual minorities in accord with prevailing standards.

I also found an article in The New York Times reflective of our own situation. It recounts the struggle of young Tibetans exiled in India to recreate their identity and hopefully reclaim their homeland. Speaking of Tsundue, a young poet-activist:

... he was focused on his plans to set up a public library and reading room in Dharamsala. Tibetans like himself, he said, needed to read more than books about Buddhism and the other religious texts that were available to them in Dharamsala. They needed to know about the modern world; above all, they needed to know about China. Reading rooms and libraries, he said, are where new political ideas and movements begin. As the Tibetans gathered around Tsundue's table nodded, I couldn't help thinking that this was how Tibet's adversary Mao Zedong began his career.

This was the sort of thinking behind the establishment of a library by the Gay Freedom Movement, back in the day. That library was ceded to J-FLAG. What is the status of it now? Can it be renewed as the beacon of our re-education and inspiration? I'm sure the much-maligned foreign-based activists could be persuaded to add this as a project to their infamous agendas.

The Voice of Jamaica

When you grow up in a country and have lived and breathed its very essence, it's hard not feeling a strong sense of attachment. I guess that's what patriotism is all about. You either have it, or you don't. I was born and raised in Jamaica but have been residing in the US now for over a decade. I'd love to return to my island in the sun to sip on coconuts and write to my heart's content. But, there is one thing that keeps me from going back - homophobia.

I knew I was gay from the moment I became aware of sexuality. I was also very conscious of society's view of same sex attraction. It was sinful, demonic even, and something to be exorcized or beat out of any individual possessed of it. So, being the young and naieve boy that I was, I tried to walk and talk as masculine as I could. After all, who really relishes being a social misfit. That was then. But even today, Jamaica still has an international reputation as one of the most homophobic places on earth. Yet, ironically, we hold a spot in the Guiness World Book of Records as the island with the most churches per square mile than any other place on the planet. The issue of homophobia in Jamaica is not one with a simplistic solution. "Coming Out" in Jamaica is like signing a death warrant, it's only a matter of when.

So what can we do? Well, I propose that for Jamaican gays living outside the cradle of homophobia, we do everything within our power to make our stories and our voices heard. I recently published a book of poetry that beckons its readers to celebrate their uniqueness. Now, I am working on a novel that explores the issue of homosexuality along with other topics relevant to life in Jamaica. It's a small contribution, but one nonetheless. You may have all heard the story of Terry McMillan and her Jamaican ex-lover. Though the circumstances were a bit convoluted, Jonathan made millions aware of the issue of homophobia in our country. We also need to share our stories with the world. But let these stories not be riddled with scandal and negativity. We need positive stories and in great numbers. I know some of us are still not comfortable in our skin. That's ok. But for those of us who are comfortable, we have a responsibility to serve as the voice of Jamaica. We are as much a part of the social fabric of this island as anyone else. Our voices need to be heard. One of my dearest friends is a LGBT educator and activist. He lives in Jamaica but is considering a move to Trinidad. Violence against gays seems to be a non-issue with local authorities and so he is genuinely concerned for his safety. It pains me that he would have to consider such an option. But I would rather see him alive and well in Trinidad than fearful and paranoid in Jamaica. We have to find a way to break the chains of ignorance. It's the only way for us to achieve true freedom. The power to effect change is in us.

17 December 2005

Re: Outraged

Dear Friends

It appears vulgar to be having a discussion seemingly on the corpse of a good friend. But based on my own personal relationship with both Steve and Brian, my work in issues of LGBT rights and now with HIV and human rights, I feel entitled to make some comments.

To begin, I hardly think that gay rights activists (local and international) are responsible for any kind of indecent eposure. Newspapers are always going to report in a reductionist and sensational manner. A life's work will be reduced in one's untimely death with only the tag of sexual orientation. And that is sad, because clearly, a person must be more than just his sexual orientation.

However, the issues of sexuality that stalk the death of many gay men, is worthy of discussion. I am happy that a senior police believes that there is need for special oversight of the way murders with a perceived homosexual subtext are investigated. This , I beg to say, is not a call for "special rights". Complaints that the police have often refused or been breathtakingly inadequate in investigating crimes against gay people, is not a figment of some foreigner's imagination. As it now stands, the class of persons called homosexuals (also described as "vulnerable people" in relation to HIV an AIDS) have no rights. In fact, male homosexuals could even be styled unapprehended criminals, by law .

This is a difficult conversation to conduct, even among gay people and those who are "gay-friendly". We really should be focussed on mourning the loss of a dear friend . In fact, we really shouldnt be burying anyone in these circumstances. But we are. And activism geared to change some of the institutional things that make some murders happen with impunity, is actually worthwhile.

Yes, there are many murders that occur in Jamaica with a whole range of victims. But there is a particular way that some murders occur. Even worse, some are motivated by who the victim is. Sometimes the system even seems to conspire to make some murders occur with no redress. And what do we do, if we happen to fall in a category that puts us at risk? Well we can grieve, reflect, honour the dearly departed and take steps to ensure that this doesnt happen again. But we cannot just sit back and love all the hurt away.

There is no doubt, that distance and economic status can make a difference in any kind of activism. Much is said about people who have the luxury of being overseas and continually "fass" in local [Jamaican] business. I also recognise that being middle class does sometimes act as a buffer for both men and women, in respect of homophobia. But I will also say that that none of these things disentitle anyone from an opinion on these important issues. Murder and repression are not private matters. I believe all well thinking persons, gay, straight, rich, poor, Jamaican or foreigners, can feel involved with these issues. As a dear friend of mine said recently, we all carry the "psychic burden" of Jamaica's violence. I believe that the cry for change, expressed in part by activism, is an attempt to save our country and all Jamaicans both inside and outside.

Peace

Philip

Re: Outraged

Christine,

We have not spoken since your own ordeal. I'm happy you were released relatively unscathed. It must have been a harrowing experience.

This must be a very trying time for you again. In addition to the grief at Steve's death, there is this anger. I'm not sure exactly how your sensibilities have been offended or your expectations not met, but i'll make a few observations, even from a distance, if i may.

To date, i have not seen any release from JAS, the organization with which Steve is associated and with whose work he has been identified. Was there any attempt at media management to influence what was published? To whom did the press and stake-holders speak? If there was no communications oversight, then the press could have had open-season on this. As it was, i have not seen any press reports or releases from NGOs or anyone which describe him as a "Gay man," except from the Guyana National Aids Committee, much less as a gay activist.

Invariably, the issues of homosexuality and AIDS are conflated in the average Jamaican mind. People are killed in Jamaica every day, unfortunately, but if a well-known HIV/AIDS prevention worker is the victim, then the question of gay murder/hate crime inevitably will arise; "proof" is unnecessary, as the general perception/conjecture will prevail even in the wider society. If Steve was not out while alive, he has been outed in death, perhaps adding another dimension, as you project, to his family's grief. Beyond the "newly and freshly growing relationship with his family," he chose his lifestyle, companions, involvement, commitment and public role. He was part of the community and his gay family is going to claim him. I daresay he is seen by them as a model, on which were projected many hopes, now transformed into yet another gruesome materialization of their fears.

JAS is not a "Gay" organization despite the fact that it was conceived and is run by gay men, and many of its programs are MSM-oriented, even to the spawning and harboring of J-FLAG. In the social and political climate of Jamaica, it has to maintain distance, perhaps even to dissemble at times. This is the default survival mode of the majority of LGBTs and PWAs in Jamaica, leading to ambivalence, conflicting feelings and a grave sense of dis-ease. It's all an open secret, propped up with hypocrisy, deception and denial of self. When story come to bump, as it has here, how we would like to appear bucks up into the reality of how we are perceived.

Your support of and contribution to the AIDS prevention effort, and by extension to the gay community, is noble and highly appreciated. We need all the allies we can get. We respect differences of opinion and approach both within and without the gay community, but to lash out blindly at "members of the GLB," local and foreign-based, and to attribute a "selfish response on the part of activists" does not honour the struggle that Steve and countless others must endure just to survive on a daily basis, and to hopefully arrive at self-acceptance. I hope that the quibbling by some over the method and class of crime is not an attempt to sanitize Steve's life and death to ameliorate anyone's discomfort with how he lived and died. His death should be an occasion for us to comfort and support each other, honour and celebrate who he was, and to draw renewed courage and resolve to resist the continued demonization of sexual minorities and PWAs. Your anger would be more constructively directed at the ignorance and brutality of a society that forces us into hiding, self-denial and self-destructive behaviour of the type reported at Steve's memorial.

I would ask that you state your case directly, not by implicating nameless and faceless GLB and activists; in particular, i ask you to clarify the selfish response that has upset you so. If i have misinterpreted anything you said, or if you have information on any self-serving agendas of activists, referred to as well by Ingrid, i would appreciate hearing, as i am not aware of any discussion beyond this list.

With Love and Support,

Larry

Outraged

I am angry, incenced, but more than anything "pissed off", with what I see happening in the local and external media,surrounding Steve's death. but even more so, with members of the GLB..., some of whom live here, but also those who don't live in an island of 2,6000,0000, but cities of many more millions, in the United States and Europe. They can and have sometimes chosen to be invisible members of the community, having decided to leave Jamaica, or never to live here in the first place. Suddenly this man who chose to do the work that he did as a "Gay man working in the area of HIV/AIDS prevention" in marginalised communities, is a "Gay man" and murdered in a homophobic commumuity. What absolute and "honest" proof do we have? Maybe the reports from the people in the house etc. But hey, is this enough to do what is being done???? No, I don't think so.

"Steve did what he did, with marginalised communities, because he believed in it."

I am not a member of the gay,lesbian, bisexual or "anything else" community. I was "born" heterosexual but was fortunate enough to spend and engage most of my adult life in love, friendship and hopefully an outside understanding of the GLB ... For the past 15 years I have "chosen" to work with the community in its work to prevent HIV and AID's prevention with all communities and within that, much work solely working with people who identified (or not) with being gay and helping them and their families to understand and acknowledge the issue of identifying as GBL ...

I am however as a friend of Steve Harvey's for the past 10-13 years, so angry about what has resulted from his death. Steve was a sweet and gentle giant who had learned to accept with difficulty his sexuality, as have most folks. He would I feel be mortified, by what he sees happening now... The newly and freshly growing relationship with his family surrounding his sexuality was just beginning to blossom, and as we all know that takes time, patience,love and belief.... What can his family and friends feel now. "Steve Harvey , well known gay activist. " (in the press) He wasn't a gay activist, he fought for people with HIV/AIDS and in his own small way maybe brought the whole "gay ' thing into it." That is what Jamaica AIDS Support
has always been about. Not separating but trying to incorporate.

I am saddened by the response and I believe a selfish response on the part of activists that I "no longer" feel I have much faith in. I am really saddened.

Christine

16 December 2005

Re: Who killed Steve Harvey

What is a hate crime? My understanding is that it is a crime that is purely driven by hate, phobia, intolerance. If we accept this definition I have to say that Brian's murder was not a classic hate crime. He was killed by someone he knew, who wanted money. Where the hate comes in is that Brian's killers knoew that if the manner in which they killed him would spark a particular response, based on who Brian was.

In Steve's case, the sketchy details I've heard seem to strongly indicate that he may have been 'set-up'. This supposed asking the other 2 young men IF they were gay and opting to tie them up, but take Steve seems too highly thought out and logical to me.

What is true is that our leaders, fellow-jamaicans, colleagues e.t.c. remain relaxed and inactive in the face of the hatred and discrimination that is part of the fabric of many of our lives.

Hatred and discrimination combined with internalized homophobia, self-hate, lack of respect for our selves and our fragile community all too often becomes the gift we give ourselves e.g. the disgraceful melee at Steve's memorial at JAS on Sunday... my suspicion that something of this nature would occur is why I did not attend ... that's not how I want to remember Steve.

There is SO much 2 B done ...

fabian

Re: Some thoughts on Philip's and Ingrid's comments

The reality is the huge responsibility and attendant dangers involved in coming out publicly, using your name and your face is Jamaica are overwhelming and intimidating. The fact of the matter is there is safety in distance...in places where there are laws, organizations and groups to help protect and advocate for the rights and lives of GLBT folks......this remains chillingly lacking in Jamaica. Nobody knows who or what J-FLAG is really about because the people or person who becomes the face of the organization will be stepping in a vortex of exposure and a very real danger!! Gareth is now being pointed out by police in street, signatories on the J-FLAG account were outed and exposed by bank employees.....where is the recourse? Notice how much impact Brian's murder had abroad, we'd be hard-pressed to find similar effect in Jamaica.

On a personal note, after taping a pilot programme which explored Jamaica's homophobia, on which I was 'the openly gay man'.....I really thought about what this being broadcast in Jamaica would mean. To me, my safety, peace of mind, my family ....I unashamedly and unapologetically asked the producers to edit out the sections of the show that featured me talking about being gay. The writing, directing, activism I'd like to do are definitely adversely affected by the fact that I currently live in Jamaica.....while doing a consultancy in Trinidad I was struck with delight and sadness at how much more comfortable, safe and relaxed I was there than in Jamaica......Relocation is becoming an increasingly seductive, comforting and life-affirming thought, course of action.

fabian

Some thoughts on Philip's and Ingrid's comments

I've been reading your exchanges this morning with great interest. I'm not far from either of you right now, over here in New Kingston. Here are my preliminary thoughts:

I believe that Ingrid makes some good, valid points about the need for more stories on successful, fulfilled (relatively speaking) lezzies and gay men living in Jamaica. However, in my travels back and forth between the US and Jamaica over all these years, dating back to before my days with J-FLAG, I discern these concerns:

A lot of people, both J'cans in Jamaica and people abroad, want to *see* who these J'can queer people are. They want an actual *face* instead of the constantly anonymous stories about queer life in Jamaica. (Christine Hewitt said this to Flo O'Connor on J'can radio 6 years ago. "We don't know who none a dese J-FLAG people are," she said, in, unfortunately, rather hostile tones. "We cyaan recognize dem face.") But the problem seems to be that *no* queer J'cans, successful and living in Jamaica OR poor OR working-class, wish to come forward and openly present their side of things in -- for example -- an interview in the GLEANER or OBSERVER, or on radio/TV. Larry Chang did this in his own way, but he is now a political asylum resident of the U.S. Brian Williamson was open in the media all the time, but he's dead. Who else do we have?

In the time I worked with J-FLAG, all of our media representatives (and we had about 4-5 in those days; I still have the tapes of those radio shows) used pseudonyms. Robert Cork was one of our first, and, in an interview with Cliff Hughes, called himself "Mr X."

Sure -- perhaps it's ridiculous, preposterous, to expect J'can lezzies and gays living on the island to come out. J'can queers living in Ja -- especially those who DO NOT have the choice of leaving, who DO NOT have visas -- will have to answer that question for themselves. But it seems, from all evidence, that that coming out is where things have to begin. Jamaica's critics abroad, including the NY TIMES, will not know about the thriving underground queer life in Jamaica unless those living that life come forward and talk about it. To date, most J'can LGBT people remain shadowy figures to the rest of the world -- except the J'can queers, like Gareth and Carlene and some others, who do the political/representing work at international conferences. And then there are those like me who, U.S.-born and U.S.-residing, are very "out," but are not seen by some as "true" J'cans because we didn't grow fully in yard and don't speak with a J'can accent. Notice, btw, that the most famous J'can queer writers -- Patricia Powell, Makeda Silvera, and Michelle Cliff -- all live abroad. I know them all well, and know that not one of them, sadly, has any intention of returning to Jamaica.

So what happens next? J'can queers living in Jamaica have to come OUT. This will be monstrously difficult, eh? Most of the J'can queers I know who still live in Jamaica haven't even come out to their families -- certainly not to their parents, nor to other family members. If these queers -- perhaps understandably -- haven't shared the truth about themselves with their most primal human relations -- their parents -- well, where exactly does that essential coming OUT process begin? That's not a question for me to answer, since I don't live in Ja regularly -- but I think it is a question that bears centrally on some of the arguments Ingrid has so provocatively put forth.

When we who are connected to Jamaica, and others (such as the NY TIMES editors, and Amnesty, and Human Rights Watch) begin to SEE stories of *visible* J'can queers living in Jamaica and thriving, succeeding, and living, clearly, without fear as non-closeted people, the stories about Jamaican LGBT life will, I think, begin to change. The stories of anti-gay murder will be challenged, somewhat, by stories of J'can queers WITH FACES AND VISIBLE LIVES succeeding. For now, however, the stories of those lives are muted: they remain hidden, in the underground networks that most of us know; they remain hidden to the rest of the world, and to most of Jamaica, in the places we socialise with each other (such as Ian's New Year's Eve party last year), but about which our dear families, for the most part, know little or nothing.

Share your thoughts, folks! This is all so thought-provoking, and I'm thrilled that we're having the exchange.

Thomas

Full text of retort (See below)

I agree that a homophobic killing is not always clear cut, especially living in a country like Jamaica. Jamaicans generally already have a glaring disrespect, mistrust and disregard for each other and would seek to minimise, eliminate even, any one group who would be seeking what they may perceive as "special" or "more" rights and privileges, be it defined by class, economics or sexual orientation.

I personally have no clear evidence other than hear say as to the real reasons Steve Harvey was taken away and killed. I can't answer why Brian Williamson was stabbed so many times. Frankly the way we in Jamaica kill and who we kill ( children, grandmas, pregnant women) again, doesn't make them special in how they were murdered and maybe not even why. We are a people who are generally self-loathing, suppressed, who already feel limited by economics, shadism etc - you just have to drive around and observe and speak to people - you just have to listen to the news. We're not a nation with a healthy psyche right now babe.

We don't even flinch anymore when we hear a dead woman was dug out of her grave, cut up and left in the sun to dry. We are not surprised anymore when we see pictures of children with bullet wounds to the head, back and arms. That's the context in which we live and here we are gays and lesbians asking for acceptance, tolerance and certain legal rights to be extended to us. That's like expecting a self-hating, man or woman beating lover to have the ability to love you, when they don't even love themselves.

And God knows it is a misconception that lesbians middleclass or not, have a "rarified space to socialise" seemingly making us more safe than the guys. You've got to be kidding me. You need to meet more lesbians and get to know them. Yes the hatred against gay men is more amplified and media played than that for lesbians, and I believe that is partly based on the perception that a woman is generally weak anyway and in only need of a strong man and a good f*ck to set her straight.

The kind of backlash against lesbians outside of the many unreported rapes, beatings, psychological trauma at the hands of mothers, relatives, and so called friends tend to be more covert - like being fired as I was a couple of years ago because they found out I was gay and thought I was trying to gayify the project I was working on. And I could tell you many stories and line you up with a truckload of lesbians with theirs.

I have to add too that, we all know that middle class gay men also have somewhat of a rarified safe space in this country - why because Jamaica in general tends to insulate, protect people of status, academia, artistic excellence and wealth - especially if they don't go below the Half Way Tree clock as we would say. And we all could name at least 5.

So no Philip, I ain't glib about a thing. I too want the repeal of the sodomy laws and any discriminatory ones too. But I'd rather the political agendas be based on fact (steve Harvey was shot) that fiction (Steve Harvey was found with his throat cut). I'd rather it be fought not only with the focus on the struggle(the laws that don't protect us, the societal machinery that doesn't support us) but also with stories of our successes ( the men and women living well, loving long, partying hard, things being done). Political activism is not only about people within organizations doing what they do best, but also about the many others outside of the organizations who have chosen to live and love regardless.

And I'd like to answer that question - who murdered Steve Harvey? That's easy. Jamaica killed Steve Harvey. Gay, bisexual and straight Jamaica. Hypocritical and sexually oppressed Jamaica. The most churches per square mile in the world Jamaica. The most bars per square mile in the Caribbean Jamaica. The murder capital of the west Jamaica. The fifty percent of all murders go unsolved Jamaica. That's who and what killed Steve Harvey.

Ingrid

15 December 2005

Full text of response 1 (See below)

A killing based on homophobia does not always happen in a clear cut way. It is almost never as clear cut as Matthew Shepard's killing in the US. But it is not rocket science either.

On the face of it, it may appear to be a "normal" murder in the course of a robbery. But on not even very close examination, one will note that there is a special motivation of hatred towards battyman. Why stab Brian a few dozen times for example? Or why not just rob Steve's place and leave him the hell alone? There is the added antipathy towards the victim because he is gay. It doesn't matter if there is a robbery or some other criminal enterprise, alongside the clearly demonstrable hatred of gays.

So while there is an intolerable level of crime generally, gay people have an added problem. If they exhibit courage and report crimes relating to their sexuality, there is every chance that it will not be properly investigated - precisely because there is institutional homophobia in the police force (See HRW report or just talk to a few sport).

You will also agree that in spite of all the wonderful parties, people tend to be scared to self-disclose sexual orientation even to prosecute a criminal claim. Why ? Because people have real fears about phyiscal harm being done to them based on their sexuality.

As a middle class lesbian, you can create rarified spaces to socialise. You are for the most part, insulated from the full blast of nasty homophobia accorded to de "sodomite gal dem". But even you (and I) are not exempt. We are all at risk for crime in general, yes. And the added thing of our homosexual orientation, does put us at a particular risk. That is the concern being highlighted by gayrights activist - local and international.

So do not for one second be glib. Our governments can't claim any sovereign right not to be criticised for its failure to protect their citizens, gay and straight. Their is nothing uniquely "Jamaican" about this dereliction. I would hate to think that in your views, you are enabling this utterly vile propoganda.

I am angry, but not full of hate

Philip
( one a de pesky gay rights activists-at-large )

Who killed Steve Harvey? (Full text of first volley - see below)

Steve Harvey's death has stirred mixed responses within me. First because I see his death being politicized by local and international gay activists with agendas fueled by one sided reporting of information or just plain ignorance. Secondly, because his death and that of Brian Williamson, another internationally known gay rights activist last year, comes now - when a mini renaissance in how gay and lesbian Jamaicans live here is brewing.

Without question Steve Harvey's murder can be classified unequivocally as a murder. Nothing new here, since we Jamaicans have already killed over 1,500 people since the beginning of this year, a new record as we all know. So Steve's death is unfortunately not shocking and given the shoddy crime solving reputation of the police here, his murder is likely to go unsolved too and not because he's gay and that it may be a hate crime, but simply because he's Jamaican.

And so it remains to be proven as to whether he was killed because he was gay or simply because he was Jamaican. It could be that the murderers simply killed another Jamaican, who happened to have been a gay and AIDS activist here. I sometimes think that we Jamaicans gay and straight,are all at greater risk of being killed here generally, than being killed specifically because we're gay.

Yet amid all the bacchanal of blood here, the Jamaican gay community has charged themselves it seems with mantras for living. In 2004, after Brian Williamson's death, the mantra was "It's 2004, we nah hide no more." And for this year, it's been "It's 2005, we're alive it's time to thrive." And in that vein something has been happening here - a mini renaissance I'd like to call it and it's showing itself in how we're living now.

There are now two clubs - on one the touristy north coast and one in Kingston, the city capital. We have over five gay friendly and gay run resorts. We have quite a few known gay own businesses. We have an online newsletter jamaicanoutpost.com. We have many online groups. On average there are at least 3 parties (commercial and house-based) being held here, especially in Kingston and those are the ones that I know about. We have another gay hangout in the hills of Kingston. All are thriving and there's more to come.

And better yet, there is a community spirit brewing, a changing mindset - a coming together of the men and women, guys and girls who live gay and lesbian here. I'd like to see more reporting about that, as it will help to strengthen it and help it grow faster. Believe it or not television shows such as The L Word, Queer as Folk, Will & Grace and The Ellen Degeneres Show has also influenced the way we live here. You know what I see in Jamaican gays and lesbians who are in their 20s - they are more bold and out than those live myself in our 30s and I love that!

So as these two worlds coexist and in a number of respects collide, I don't like the idea of the kind of political agenda and pressure on the Jamaican government that seeks to show only the one side of a situation. Without question I believe and want to see Jamaica repeal the sodomy laws and amend the discrimination ones too. But I also want Jamaicans and the world to know that while we live unprotected by law, publicly unsupported yet privately encouraged by Jamaican society - we have a rich and amazing history, we have heroes and heroines, we have contributed much to the development of this country and still do and that we are living as loudly and proudly as we can here.

And I'd like to answer to the question - who murdered Steve Harvey? That's easy. Jamaica killed Steve Harvey. Gay, bisexual and straight Jamaica. Hypocritical and sexually oppressed Jamaica. The most churches per square mile in the world Jamaica. The most bars per square mile in the Caribbean Jamaica. The murder capital of the west Jamaica. The 50% of all murders go unsolved Jamaica.

Ingrid

14 December 2005

Steve's Funeral

We are informed that the Funeral Service for the late Lenford "Steve" Harvey will be held on Saturday, December 17th, 2005 commencing at 11:00am at Christ Church, 6 Antrim Road, Vineyard Town.

Creative ferment - Commentary

While I understand that it is important, especially in this very frightening present situation and reality in Jamaica, to emphasise on ‘survival tactics’ of the gay and lesbian community in Jamaica, to self assure ourselves that there is a certain quality of life possible in circumstances which seem to prevent exactly this, I also feel that it is self destructive and wrong to accuse local and international gay activists of politicising and using Steve’s murder for their agendas "fueled by one sided reporting of information or just plain ignorance”. Frankly I don’t understand such statements, I think Steve’s murder should be on the political agenda of human rights activists, what else?

Ritu

Out of tragedy - creative ferment

Our recent losses have necessarily elicited grief, anger, frustration, resentment, fear - you name it - feelings and sentiments that under normal circumstances we would have kept under circumspect wraps, sharing perhaps with only our key spars. Stressful situations can often bring out the mettle in us and this seems to be the case, as fingers fly over keyboards and e-mails traverse from one end of the world to the next.

Here a few excerpts which i share and hope that the originators will themselves join this board.


First volley:
... I don't like the idea of the kind of political agenda and pressure on the Jamaican government that seeks to show only the one side of a situation. Without question I believe and want to see Jamaica repeal the sodomy laws and amend the discrimination ones too. But I also want Jamaicans and the world to know that while we live unprotected by law, publicly unsupported yet privately encouraged by Jamaican society - we have a rich and amazing history, we have heroes and heroines, we have contributed much to the development of this country and still do and that we are living as loudly and proudly as we can here.

Response 1:
As a middle class lesbian, you can create rarified spaces to socialise. You are for the most part, insulated from the full blast of nasty homophobia accorded to de "sodomite gal dem". But even you ( and I ) are not exempt. We are all at risk for crime in general, yes. And the added thing of our homosexual orientation, does put us at a particular risk. That is the concern being highlighted by gayrights activist - local and international.

So do not for one second be glib. Our governments cant claim any sovereign right not to be criticised for its failure to protect their citizens, gay and straight .Their is nothing uniquely "Jamaican" about this dereliction. I would hate to think that in your views, you are enabling this utterly vile propoganda.

Retort:

I ain't glib about a thing. I too want the repeal of the sodomy laws and any discriminatory ones too. But I'd rather the political agendas be based on fact (steve Harvey was shot) that fiction (Steve Harvey was found with his throat cut). I'd rather it be fought not only with the focus on the struggle(the laws that don't protect us, the societal machinery that doesn't support us) but also with stories of our successes ( the men and women living well, loving long, partying hard, things being done). Political activism is not only about people within organizations doing what they do best, but also about the many others outside of the organizations who have chosen to live and love regardless.

Tremendous loss

Our community mourns the loss of two magnificent guys, the likes of whom we'll not soon see again: Steve Harvey to gun violence, and Joseph Robinson to cancer.

Steve was an invaluable leader in the community, having worked at Jamaica AIDS Support (JAS), doing outreach to MSM, prisons and high-risk night spots, and representing HIV/AIDS interests in the NGO and diplomatic communities. He was also a registered delegate to the PNP Conference and was instrumental in trying to mobilize an LGBT constituency within the party. Who knows what influence he had on John Junor and Donald Rhodd in their recent calls for public debate of the gay rights issue? International organizations which knew him and his work have called for a thorough investigation into his death, which attracted the editorial notice of the New York Times. DCP Mark Shields has promised investigation with independent monitoring.

Joseph was a founder of JAS, but is much better known as co-founder, with Paulette Bellamy, of the internationally acclaimed and innovative arts-training and edutainment entity known as Ashe. Originally from Turks Island, he came to Jamaica to attend the Jamaica School of Dance where his recalcitrance led him to cross swords with Rex Nettleford, resign from the NDTC, and later, fall out with Cathy Levy with whom he had joined up in Little People. His fearlessness led him to establish Ashe Centre in Nannyville, which they eventually vacated after the killing of a security guard there, and to invoke the wrath of the Church, in the person of Monsignor Mock Yen from the pulpit, for his sex education manual, Vibes in the World of Sexuality, published under the auspices of the MOEC with input from teachers. His legacy is the cadre of young Jamaicans he has trained to be open, questioning, creative and self-possessed, who continue to run Ashe as if he is still there, for he has imbued them with his spirit, the spirit of Ashe.

Welcome to Jamaica Land We LGBT

Within the Jamaican LGBT community, both island-based and diasporic, there arises from time to time a need to communicate quickly and effortlessly. E-mail lists have sprung up in response to these needs but have the shortcoming of omitting persons who would like to be included, others who may prefer not to be shown listed, and still others who may not wish to listed at all. This medium allows each to choose their level and frequency of engagement.

For this forum to be successful, active participation by many is essential, so this is set up as a group blog. Volunteer to be a contributor, particularly if you represent a region or constituency - Brooklyn or Bog Walk, women or drag queens, Upper Sin Andrew or downtown sport - so we can have a wide range of opinion. In addition to the anonymity afforded by the use of handles, this is a restricted forum for which registration is required to post comments. Please register and encourage your crew to join as well. More general, open comments can be directed to the under-utilized but highly valuable J-FLAG message board.